Difference Between Antioxidants and Antibodies

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Background concept word cloud illustration of antioxidants. Photo: Bigstock

Let’s start by stating that both antioxidants and antibodies are essential ingredients in keeping you healthy. But with that said, what exactly are the differences between the two?

Many people are not aware of what the differences are but they are quite substantial, but with that said, there are numerous similarities between the two as well.

They both protect your body from disease and illness and are necessary for maintaining good health, but that’s about where the similarities end. 

This article will explore some of the main points about what antioxidants and antibodies are, what role they play in your body, and how you can increase your intake of each to maintain optimal health.

What are Antioxidants?

Fresh Berries in a bowl
Blueberries have great antioxidant properties. Photo by Brandon Wilson on Unsplash

Enter Free Radicals – The Bad Guys

These are compounds found in foods that are designed to prevent oxidative damage. Oxidative damage is the process by which free radicals can run amok in your body and damage healthy cells.

What Do Free Radicals Do?

Free radicals are atoms that are missing an electron and by so doing, they look for other cells’ atoms to which they can attach so that they can steal that cell’s electron. This is a common occurrence in nature when atoms have missing electrons. They need to balance out their electron count. When they find a healthy cell to attach to, they will merge with it, subsequently changing the characteristics of that cell to the point where the healthy properties of those cells are diminished or non-existent.

When this happens and too many damaged cells exist, it could result in your body becoming a risk for such diseases as cancer and heart disease as well as many other illnesses. 

Seniors playing chess
Oxidative stress occurs during a normal day of activity, even when you are at rest. Photo by Vlad Sargu on Unsplash

These bad guys are created during our normal lifestyle, which includes simply breathing and eating. In other words, oxidation builds up during daily metabolism – the energy that you exert daily.

Antioxidants – The Good Guys

Antioxidants are the free radicals’ worst enemy. They are molecules that will donate an electron to the free radical making it useless in damaging other cells. 

Antioxidants are naturally found in fruits and vegetables. Some of the best foods for fighting off free radicals are berries, citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, broccoli, and tomatoes, but don’t stop there. Just about all fruits and vegetables will help build antioxidants.

They can also be found in smaller amounts in grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. The best-known antioxidants in vitamins are C and E, and beta-carotene.

When you eat foods that contain antioxidants, they enter your bloodstream and then proceed to neutralize the free radicals before they cause damage. This means that antioxidants can prevent oxidative damage and this is why antioxidants are so beneficial to your health.

Fruits and vegetables are your best fight against oxidative stress.

What are Antibodies?

Microscopic view of the COVID virus
Microscopic view of the COVID virus spike protein. The spikes are what attack the healthy cells unless blocked by antibodies. Photo: Pixabay

Antibodies are quite different in properties from antioxidants. Antibodies Are proteins. Proteins are molecules. Antioxidants are not proteins. Antibodies contain chains of amino acids which are naturally produced by your immune system when an infection is detected. They can recognize and identify harmful agents like bacteria, viruses, and other foreign agents. That is why you hear so much about antibodies regarding Covid but you don’t hear anything about antioxidants.

Antibodies are created by your white blood cells, called B cells, and bind to the glycoproteins – the enemy of antibodies, similar to how free radicals are the enemy of antioxidants. Glycoproteins are the carbohydrate portion of proteins that are found in bacteria and viruses. Once the antibodies bind to these bad proteins, they neutralize and remove them from the body before they have a chance to cause harm.

For Covid, the antibodies block the virus cells, called spike proteins from attacking healthy cells.

Your body will create antibodies when foreign agents such as a virus are detected, but vaccines can be injected to further the creation of antibodies if needed.

The Difference in a Nutshell

Antioxidants and antibodies are both designed to protect against disease and boost immunity. However, there are differences between antioxidants and antibodies that are worth noting.

Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that prevent oxidative damage. They don’t directly fight infections. They don’t recognize harmful bacteria and viruses.

Antioxidants also don’t circulate in the blood, as antibodies do. They are found in food, and can’t be detected in your blood. This means that antioxidants don’t boost immunity the way antibodies do.

What antioxidants do is help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals? These attacked cells can add up causing your body to become at risk of several dangerous diseases.

Antibodies detect harmful bacteria and viruses. They are created by our white blood cells and circulate through our blood vessels and look for bad proteins from bacteria. Once found, they block these bad proteins from attacking healthy cells.

More About Antioxidants

Illustration of how Antioxidant Works Against Free Radicals

As we’ve already explored, antioxidants are compounds that prevent oxidative damage. They do this by neutralizing free radicals with their electron pairs before they can cause damage. This means that antioxidants protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals. They also protect a person’s DNA from being damaged.

In addition to providing general health benefits, antioxidants can also help boost your immune system. They can do this by preventing oxidative damage to healthy cells. This leaves your immune system with fewer cells to protect, which means it can put more energy into fighting against infections.

More About Antibodies

Antibodies are proteins that are created by the immune system to protect against disease. They can do this by binding to bacteria and viruses and neutralizing them. Antibodies are much more active than antioxidants when it comes to fighting infections. They circulate through the blood and can detect infections and bacteria in the blood. They then bind to the harmful pathogen and neutralize it.

Antibodies can recognize certain foreign bodies. This includes bacteria, viruses, toxins, and even allergens like pollen. Antibodies also boost immunity by preventing harmful bacteria and viruses from causing infections.

Below is a quick chart of the differences between antioxidants and antibodies.

What it vitaminsVitamins C & EProteins that contain amino acids
How it is createdFruits & veggiesIn white blood cells when an infection is detected within the body
What it fights freeFree radicals (atoms with missing electrons)Viruses
How to fightEat fruits & veggiesNormal activity within the body but can also be created through vaccines

Bottom Line

Person holding am apple
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Antioxidants and antibodies have similar functions but are very different compounds. While antioxidants don’t circulate in the blood and are designed to prevent oxidative damage, antibodies circulate in the blood and are designed to bind to and neutralize bacteria.

Antioxidants help prevent oxidative damage and can boost immunity, while antibodies do both of these things.

Antioxidants are beneficial for your health, but you can only reap their benefits if you consume enough of them. This can be challenging because many people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. This is why it’s important to get your daily dose of antioxidants. Antioxidants can help you stay healthy, and make sure you don’t get sick.

What is a COVID-19 Spike Protein?

Microscopic view of the COVID virus
Microscopic view of the COVID virus showing the spike proteins. Photo: Pexels

Are You Spike Protein Savvy?

We hear this term a lot, and they were mentioned in our previous article about cells, but what are spike proteins exactly? When we see doctors talking about Covid on TV, how can we follow along with what they are saying?

Here, we will break spike proteins down for you, step by step. With this knowledge article, you can then walk away knowing what spike proteins are and how the COVID-19 virus is associated with them. So let’s begin!

A Brief History of the Spike Protein

Man writing on blackboard about virus mutations

Before we go any further, let’s define variantsA variant is a viral genetic code that may contain one or more mutations” – CDC.gov. In other words, a variant is a cell that may be defective.

With that said, a new coronavirus variant, officially called B.1.1.529 or Omicron, was detected in Botswana on November 11, 2021. On November 26, 2021, this new strain was designated a concern by the World Health Organization because of its high number of mutations in the spike protein.

This Omicron strain contains 32 mutations, compared to 18 for the previous Delta variant, and it is this high number of mutations in the Omicron spike protein has become a concern.

The more mutations in the spike protein, the more concern there is about the virus’s increase in transmissibility and a significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies. (See below about antibody neutralization)

Let us proceed in more detail about why a higher number of mutations in a spike protein is a concern for medical practitioners. 

The Structure of the Coronavirus

Illustration of a spike protein
Images combined from a 3D medical animation, depicting the shape of coronavirus as well as a cross-sectional view. The image shows the major elements including the Spike S protein, HE protein, viral envelope, and helical RNA. Wikipedia Commons.

If you closely examine the structure of the novel coronavirus, you will notice that the virus is spherical and enveloped.  A viral envelope is the outermost layer of a virus. It protects the genetic material when traveling between host cells, but there are a few more features associated with this structure. Upon closer examination of the viral envelope, you will notice that it comprises three proteins: 

      • The membrane protein (M), 
      • The envelope protein (E), and 
      • The spike protein (S)

The Coronavirus Spike Protein 

The spike protein plays a critical role in getting through to the host cells and subsequently starting an infection in the host’s body. In the case of the novel coronavirus, the presence of spike proteins is responsible for the spike-shaped protrusions and that is what you see on the virus’s surface that allows the virus to enter into the host’s body.

Researchers have divided the coronavirus spike proteins into two critical subunits:

      • The S1 subunit, and 
      • The S2 subunit 

The S1 subunit, also known as the N-terminal, forms the head of the spike protein, whereas the S2 subunit, also known as the C-terminal, forms the stalk of the protein, which is directly rooted in the viral envelope. 

As soon as the virus interacts with ‘sees’ a healthy host cell, the S1 subunit binds to the receptors. The receptor is a structure on the host cell’s surface. Antibodies are designed to stop the S1 subunit from binding to the cell.

Spike protein’s S1 subunit’s receptor can bind to the human cell, infecting that cell. When antibodies are introduced into the body, they have the effect to neutralize the S1 subunit’s binding capacity. We suggest watching this video more than once to completely understand what the researcher is saying. For closed captioning, start the video and click the CC button.

Controlling COVID-19 by Targeting Coronavirus’s Spike Protein 

Given the primary understanding of the role of the spike protein in the spread of a viral disease, it is now clear that without the spike proteins, no viruses, including the coronaviruses, will be able to interact with the host cells and cause infection.

It is precisely due to this reason that researchers are preliminarily interested in better understanding spike proteins and coming up with vaccines that target their function. So far, the vaccine developers currently use antibodies directed against them to control the spread of the disease. 

As researchers gain more details, they are likely to figure out better ways to control the spread. 

October 10, 2022 Update: Hospitals and medical providers have begun to use monoclonal antibodies to fight off the disease. These are lab-created antibodies and have proven to be fairly effective in helping patients to fight off Covid at an accelerated rate.